It’s not just that Americans don’t trust the president’s competence. Increasingly, they don’t trust him — period. A majority believe the president passed Obamacare on the basis of a lie. And when you lie to people, they stop listening to you. Obama’s State of the Union address garnered the lowest ratings of any president in 14 years — with 19 million fewer viewers than his first address in 2009. Obama can’t rally the country around big ideas when millions of Americans are tuning him out.
And Obama certainly can’t rally Congress around big ideas when he is simultaneously declaring his intention to circumvent it. Every time Obama mentions using his “pen and a phone,” he reminds Republicans that he can undo any immigration deal he reaches with them with a stroke of his pen — gutting border-enforcement provisions while pocketing legalization. As Paul Ryan, a leading GOP supporter of immigration reform, put it this weekend, “We have an increasingly lawless presidency, where he is actually doing the job of Congress, writing new policies and new laws without going through Congress. . . . We don’t trust the president to enforce the law.”